5 Beats in Common Time?

I can’t for the life of me figure out how to play this.

Beat 1: I strike the E (and observe the quarter rest)
Beat 2: I strike the chord
Beat 3: Chord keeps ringing
Beat 4: Chord keeps ringing
Beat 5: Play the G then E

It seems there are two many beats for common time. I doesn’t appear to have anything to do with pick pick notes, as this same measure shows up later in the song. Most of the other measure in the song clearly indicate 4 beats.

Anyone know how I should play this?

It might be a typo. It works out ok if you convert the dotted half notes into dotted quarter notes and ignore the rest.

That way you have

D u d U d u D U

Strum/pick on the capitals.

I don’t know what the rest is indicating.


My gut feeling is that is a typo and that those are supposed to be dotted crochets (quarter notes) and not dotted minims (half notes).

If you change these to dotted crochets, you get 4 beats which is what the C at the beginning indicates.

Normally if there’s a change of time signature, this is indicated in the music.

In this case, if it really is supposed to be dotted minims, then you have a time signature of something like 7/4 which is fairly unusual (unless this is a prog rock piece), especially in the middle of a 4/4 piece, and would normally be notated.

One thing to do, if you can, is listen to a recording of the song and try to work out what is being played at that point.

By the way, welcome to the community!



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Yes, the rest is a bit weird. Normally that suggests there are multiple, independent voices, such as a chord or pedal note with a melody over the top.

For example:


If we view the individual voices:



But this particular rest doesn’t seem to fit in with the remainder of the bar, even if dotted crochets are used.



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Yes, the rest is a bit weird. Normally that suggests there are multiple, independent voices, such as a chord or pedal note with a melody over the top.

I probably should have mentioned that the other examples around this song are trying to teach self accompaniment, which would explain the independent voices.

I think it is a typo, and they should be half notes instead of dotted half notes. So you strike the E (the accompaniment) and let it ring, but your melody portion of the song does “rest” for the first beat, then you start playing the melody on beat 2.

I think they represent independent voices and I don’t think it’s a typo.

The quarter note rest and the dotted half note chord take up 4 beats.

The dotted half note (E) and the 2 eighth notes take up 4 beats.

Both those voices are played simultaneously.


Thanks Majik that’s interesting. I wasn’t aware you could write multiple voicings along a staff.

That lead me to look into “implicit rests”. Which lead to me finding this video on how to use software to notate multiple voicings.

So if I understand it correctly you can add a second voicing and rather than add all the rests in order for it to add up correctly, you can delete them because the are implied. By deleting them, you unclutter the staff. If that’s the case then perhaps the staff is notated correctly. I’m really not sure because the video assumes one understands standard notation at a level that is beyond me.

The stem direction appears to differentiate between the voicings. The down stems add up (dotted half note + two eighth notes = 8 eighth notes). The upstem dotted half note doesn’t add up since the rest is implied. Or something like that.

I’m still not sure how to play it.

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You’re close, but I don’t think there is any implied rest. The rest + upstem dotted half equals 4 beats.

You play it like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
E   c       G E

Yes, I can see it now.

It’s certainly not that obvious on first (or second) reading.



Thanks jjw1

Yes, there is no need to hide any rests.

Voicing 1
2022-09-22 (1)

Voicing 2
2022-09-22 (2)
which adds up to

Multiple voicing

And I’m guessing the position of the rest is just a software quirk.

It’s played as you described (which matches my guitar pro file).

Is that correct?

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It looks correct to me. Anyway, that’s how I interpret it.

I’m not an expert sight reader by any means, but I’ve played some Travis picking fingerstyle, where this multiple voice notation is pretty common.

I agree with @jjw1.

You know there are two voicing by the direction of the stems. Up is (usually) the melody, or at least one voice, and down is the baseline (usually) or another voice.

Then, as already pointed out, the timing works.

Rest + Dotted half = 1/4+ 3/4

Dotted half + 2 eighth notes = 3/4+1/8+1/8

Are you sure this is in 4/4? As I read it I would say it’s a 6/8. But please take it with a pinch of salt, as I’m no expert. This is how I count as I read it:
first note: 1&2&3
Third/fourth: 6&

It seems like 6 eight notes in the bar.

The half notes with a dot (add 1/2 the value of the note) is 3 x 1/4 notes.

If you read it as a single voicing it would have 7 x 1/4 notes (3x1/4+3x1/4+1/8+1/8)
and the initial rest sign would not be needed or correct. Also, as mentioned, 7/4 time is unusual and you still have the rest sitting there which tells you it is something else.

But, the correct answer is clear because if it were a single voicing all the stems would go in a single direction. You know there are two voices because of the stem direction and the presence of the rest.

With two voices, you really have two different lines of music represented in one bar, meant to be played together, but there are really notated separately. Each line, melody and bass, is easily seen in 4/4 time.


Now I can see it, thanks for explaining, I’m not familiar with two voices music sheets yet. Also as I’ve recently been using the dots on quarter notes I wrongly added just half a beat instead of 1 beat. Now it makes sense.

Glad to help. Remember, the dot adds half the value of the note that holds the dot.

So a half note, like in this situation, is 3/4.
If it is a dotted quarter note, it is 3/8 and a dotted eighth note 3/16.

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